Hey, Shamubeel! – Why Are You Rewriting Our History?


HOW DO YOUNG NEW ZEALANDERS view their country’s recent past? In the 33 years since the Fourth Labour Government unleashed “Rogernomics” on an unsuspecting New Zealand, how have the “Children of the Revolution” been encouraged to characterise the society it replaced?

These are important questions. No revolutionary regime can afford to tolerate the notion that life before the revolution may actually have been happier, fairer and more prosperous than what came after. This Orwellian impulse to re-write the past is all the more important when massive change is imposed from above, rather than demanded from below.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the wholesale rewriting of New Zealand’s recent history began almost immediately after Labour’s electoral victory of 14 July 1984. Before describing this process, however, it is necessary to say a little bit about Labour’s win.

In First-Past-The-Post terms it was an emphatic result. Labour emerged from the election with a majority of 17 seats. Had the MMP electoral system been in place, however, Labour (with just 43 percent of the popular vote) could only have governed with the support of Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party. The latter, with 12 percent of the vote, was an eclectic mixture of right-wing libertarianism and free-market economics.

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Labour did well in 1984, but not as well as its numbers in the House might suggest. That New Zealanders wanted change is undeniable (the turnout of registered voters, at 93.7 percent, was the highest in New Zealand history). Exactly what sort of change they were looking for is much less clear.

As far as the revolutionaries were concerned, however, the people’s mandate could not have been clearer. First, the New Zealand economy had to be immediately and aggressively deregulated. Second, the possibility of a single, dominant politician holding the entire country in thrall, as Rob Muldoon had done since 1975, had to be eliminated. Third, the cultural and moral assumptions of the so-called “RSA Generation” had to be challenged and, if found wanting, superseded.

Most New Zealanders would have gone along with this “To Do” list. They were, after all, well into the third year of a comprehensive wage and price freeze. New Zealand’s economy was horribly distorted by arbitrary government regulation, agricultural subsidies, protective tariffs and a host of inefficient, heavily indebted and consistently unprofitable state-owned industries.

Many New Zealanders under the age of 30 felt equally aggrieved by the deeply-entrenched social conservatism of their elders. The events of three years earlier, when the Springbok Rugby Team, representing South Africa’s appallingly racist regime, had been afforded massive state protection from equally massive public protest, had fundamentally undermined the moral authority of the RSA Generation. The desire to free-up New Zealand society was every bit as strong as the desire to de-regulate its economy.

What the Labour Government had no mandate for, however, was the systematic destruction of the broadly egalitarian and generously redistributive society which had grown out of the First Labour Government’s economic and social reforms of the 1930s and 40s.

Many Kiwis would have conceded that, in recent years, the New Zealand “family home” had not been very well maintained, and that it could certainly benefit from a good spring-cleaning. There might also be an argument for knocking out a few walls; letting in a lot more light; installing a new kitchen and bathroom – maybe adding a deck. But bringing in the wrecking-crew: selling-off the family’s most valuable possessions; and reducing the much-loved family home to a pile of firewood? Neither the Labour Government, nor its Treasury and Business Roundtable advisers, had the New Zealand people’s permission to do anything remotely like that.

All the more important, therefore, that the revolutionaries convince succeeding generations that the old family home had been a horrible place, full of deeply creepy people, with rubbish piled up in corners, a leaky roof and rotting floorboards. So decrepit was it, they insisted, that the only sensible thing to do was to knock the whole place down and start over.

It’s a story they have never stopped telling.

An interesting example of this ongoing re-presentation of New Zealand’s past may be found on the Spinoff website. Shamubeel Eaqub, the site’s hip young economist du jour, was commissioned by the Spinoff to front “The New Economy”, a “pop-up section which takes a critical look at the issues and challenges facing the New Zealand economy”, sponsored by Kiwibank.

In the second episode of the series: “Hey Shamubeel! – How Did We Get Here?”, the 36-year-old economist rehearses all the old tales about how hopeless New Zealand was before the Rogernomics revolution.

“We were all about protectionism, and all about trying to re-create manufacturing and economic activity within New Zealand ….. That culminated in Robert Muldoon pursuing the ‘Think Big’ projects …. The reforms of the 1980s were like an atom bomb going off. The entire way of living in New Zealand changed, and we went from driving shit cars to good cars. We went from having a couple of TV channels to having many channels. And when the smoke cleared we found an economy that was more diverse, stronger and more flexible. ”

It is fascinating to note Eaqub’s choice of automobiles and television channels as emblematic of New Zealand’s improved way of life. Apparently, all that the country needed was a never-ending supply of Japanese used cars and “57 Channels (And nothin’ On)”

Given that Eaqub was only 3 years old when Roger Douglas dropped his “atom bomb”, it would be a little unfair to expect him to remember just what went with those “couple of TV channels”.

He’d have no recall, for example, of the hundreds of talented journalists, presenters, camera-persons, set-designers, actors, writers, directors and producers who staffed the state-owned regional television news and production hubs located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Nor could he be expected to have noted the extraordinary cultural lift which these “creatives” gave to those communities.

Because the NZBC was long gone before Eaqub was old enough to notice, he couldn’t have appreciated the superb quality of New Zealand’s “pre-revolutionary” TV schedule. Kiwis watched the best programmes the world had to offer, most of them purchased at bargain-basement prices, because there was only one buyer of overseas produced shows. (As an economist, Eaqub would recognise this happy condition as monopsony.)

“Linear television” had a lot more going for it in the 1960s and 70s than The Project and a schedule packed with excruciatingly bad reality-television shows. And all it cost the owner of the household TV set was $30.00 per year!

It’s not Eaqub’s fault. None of us can be expected to know what we do not know – especially when so many people are working so hard to prevent us from remembering and/or discovering what it is that we do not know.

The overcrowded concrete monstrosity that passes for New Zealand’s family home in 2017 has been stripped of everything likely to trigger either memories or questions about the house we used to live in. That our old home might actually have been warmer, more comfortable and less alienating than the place we live in now is an idea that is getting harder and harder to conceptualise. Everybody knows (because everybody is forever being told) that our current, neoliberal, home is superbly constructed, fantastically appointed and guaranteed to stand forever.

But, hey, Shamubeel, can you tell us: is this really as good as it gets?


    • Id say this is as good as mainstream gets. By mainstream i mean every one jacked into 5i’s. So thats about 5 or 6 hundred million people. Outside of 5i’s people go on holiday more, health an education is largley funded. I honestly have no clue why foreigners come to New Zealand. Foreigners always say the food is expensive, as hosts you really dont want guests leaving, having not experienced the full potential of the kiwi experience.

  1. “Apparently, all that the country needed was a never-ending supply of Japanese used cars and “57 Channels”

    Indeed that was the neo liberal promise cheap consumer goods (beads and blankets anyone!) and look where that has gotten us to…. rivers of shit. Literally.

    • It’s a false belief that economies mive towards full employement because machines are not people. People go on holiday to enjoy pleasures of the flesh, have babies, and the cycle coninues.

      Any one who claims a better way is a charlatan. But fool me one, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me 3 times and you die

  2. Shamubeel Eaqub is but another “Economist” who appear to no nothing about the Earth being finite.

    Another growth pundit who doesn’t have a clue about where that has us heading.

    Nor does he appear to have the slightest understanding of the rate of depletion of our global Non Renewable Natural Resources, loss of species and the implications and a wide spread collapse of systems brought about by excessive population and consumption.

    And the idiot is given air space by RNZ to spread more myths and fantasies.

  3. Thanks for this Chris, I was equally frustrated by Eaqub’s regurgitation of neo-liberal myths. It’s essential that those of us who were old enough to watch in horror as the neo-liberal coup of the 1980s and 1990s unfolded do our bit to make sure that those who weren’t get the other side of the story. Those with the attention span for full length documentaries can get it from Alistair Barry’s excellent ‘Someone Else’s Country’ and ‘In a Land of Plenty’.

    That said, I don’t think there’s much to be gained from spewing bile at Eaqub or the Spinoff. One of the tactics of the neo-liberal coup was to marginalize heterodox economists (all those who didn’t worship at the altar of the Chicago School), especially by pushing them out of the commerce departments of the universities. Eaqab is just telling economic history as it would have been taught to him. The Spinoff could have easily chosen any number of kiwi economists who would have told an even more pro-corporate version of that history, and given a much more pro-corporate diagnosis and prognosis for our current economic situation than Eaqab.

    • You’ll never find me being a soft touch for those who perpetuate and apologize for the neo liberal corporate rape and societal destruction of our country and its community’s .

      And last time I looked ?,… neither did the English or the Americans.

      And that goes for anyone else who sticks their heads above the parapets and try’s to go in to bat for these neo liberal subversives – they make themselves fair game.

      NO exceptions.

    • all that is true enough but are we to continue to allow the false indoctrination of the younger and future generations?…..there must be a challenge to the capture of history….and before all eyewitnesses are lost to mortality.

  4. ”Given that Eaqub was only 3 years old when Roger Douglas dropped his “atom bomb”, it would be a little unfair to expect him to remember just what went with those “couple of TV channels”.

    ” It’s not Eaqub’s fault. None of us can be expected to know what we do not know – especially when so many people are working so hard to prevent us from remembering and/or discovering what it is that we do not know.”


    And that’s just the problem : Your too soft on the little shit. And you of all , Chris , … realize that a perusal of our country’s recent history is at everybody’s fingertips in this modern age of computers…

    THERE IS no excuse.

    Little shits like that wouldn’t dream of actually engaging their brains ( and consciences ) and discovering what NZ REALLY was like pre Douglas … here’s a hint to the spurious little shit – take a few hours to read what The Standard blog site has posted as a permanent educational resource off to the right of the page…

    HOW DARE such a jumped up fanboy of Rogernomics who has obviously been brainwashed by lecturers in University’s that are hostile to Social Democracy and Keynesian economics even THINK we have an obligation to take for gospel anything he says – ESPECIALLY since the guy was a baby still having to have his nappies changed and his bum wiped by his parents – when those same parents were probably out on the streets protesting the wholesale selling off, privatizing , restructuring , de unionizing , downsizing shitty process of selling off what our ancestors WORKED and PAYED TAXES for and had a STAKE in…

    We never acquiesced to that !!!

    That was brought in by stealth and deceit , lies and half truths!!!

    THOUSANDS took to the streets in demonstration of what was taking place – and the only bastards who weren’t – were either foreign corporations that knew they were robbing us blind by buying them at a fire sale so they could then price gouge the living shit out of us – or the wanking bloody liar neo liberal NZ politicians and their mates in the Business Round table who clandestinely bought bulk shares and then hid them in trusts !!!

    So welcome to your brave new world of homelessness and family’s sleeping in cars WHILE working two jobs , deunionized workforce with shitty third world wages and even less conditions, welcome to exploitation of immigrant labor which puts even more downwards pressure on wages, welcome to more small children dying in crappy , damp , dilapidated state houses and private rentals, welcome to deliberately underfunded public social services such as our hospitals and schools and women’s refuges and rehab programs you little bastard …

    And much much , more than that.

    All so your masters can lobby this neo liberal govt ( not that they need lobbying ) to introduce by stealth EVEN MORE private health , private education , bulk funding , , private prisons , private police forces , and even private army’s , private housing – and then after that – give huge tax cuts to the already wealthy and let the rest of us rot on shit wages and a disproportionate shouldering of the tax burden in some grossly overpriced shithole some arsewipe landlord calls an abode when it should be called something you wouldn’t even put your bloody dog in…

    That’s your ‘ revolution’ kid , – so get with the program and realize this :

    There’s a WHOLE HEAP of us who WERE BORN well before 1984 and WE KNOW the bloody DIFFERENCE .

    And Johnny – come – lately’s who weren’t EVEN BORN in that era trying to spin us that kind of bullshit might work with the under 30 somethings and even some of the under 40’s who never knew anything else – but dont you dare try and tell that to those older, mate.

    Not in these parts , boyo.

    And the only ‘revolution’ you are ever going to get to see in your lifetime is the one that’s coming to wipe away the current ‘revolution ‘ lackeys like you are being paid to support.

    There you go , Chris ,.. fixed it for you.

    No use trying to be all softly softly on vicious Piranhas that only know how to bleed a body dry and strip the flesh from its bones … you fair land that sucker and stomp all over its head with a steel capped boot.

    • Amen to that. But surely Shamubeel can see the damage the neo liberalism is doing and link it to unaffordable housing. He must be able to put 2 and 2 together and get 4 he is an economist after all…

      • “But surely Shamubeel can see the damage the neo liberalism is doing and link it to unaffordable housing. He must be able to put 2 and 2 together and get 4 he is an economist after all…”

        Shamubeel does do that Jono. Have you read Generation Rent? To be honest I think this post from Trotter is a load of nonsense and a cheap shot at a 3min youtube video.

        I really hope this post doesn’t turn off people on the left from reading Generation Rent – some great ideas in there. Much better solutions that what’s on offer from Labour

  5. It’s not Eaqub’s fault? Who’s fault is it that he has learned that stuff from any yesterdays are not important

    None of us can be expected to know what we do not know. I do know that I agree with Little Katipo with the ‘little shit’ bit.

    The place in his brain which isn’t filled with stuff he should know and doesn’t have stuff he can recall is needed to store the ample supply of arrogance and ignorance

  6. Inclined to think you have a point there, Wild Katipo. He should be capable of looking deeper than petty propaganda points to know what life was like back then. Half-truths can be used as lies, and he selects only what suits him.

  7. This is a very accurate and succinct summary of pre and post 1984 and
    I am well old enough to have had adult experience of both eras.
    Looking not through the rose tinted lenses of nostalgia but at where we sit as a caring egalatarian nation, I can safely say pre 1984 was a much better N.Z even taking into account the latter stages of Rob Muldoon’s reign .
    The obsession of houses prices that fills the pores of every aspect of today’s media and society didn’t exist and I had friends who father’s occupations ranged from dust men to doctors and it didn’t matter a jot as far as we were all concerned.
    The garbage that is served up today in the guise of news looks amatureish compared to the properly researched news and interviews pre 84.
    We might look flashier today, but underneath this 4wd obsessed, Facebook posting ,cellphone calling , sky tv watching
    selfie taking , instagramming , twittering debt laden violent uninformed country lies a dark underbelly and a Nation that has lost it’s way.

  8. Shamubeel’s solutions to the housing crisis are still way to the left of what Labour is offfering…so yeah, shows how left Labour are

  9. ‘It’s not Eaqub’s fault. None of us can be expected to know what we do not know – especially when so many people are working so hard to prevent us from remembering and/or discovering what it is that we do not know.’

    Book by Thom Hartmann, “The Crash of 2016” – YouTube
    Video for the crash of 2016
    ▶ 58:52

    The Crash of 2016 talks about forgetting, and once people forget the causes of depressions, wars, etc. we are doomed to recycle. Because, in the background, there is a small, well-resourced group of people that work to spin the past but continue to keep the faith in grabbing the wealth and the power and reducing working people to ‘flexible’ slavery. Apparently, they’re called royalists and their greed is legendary.

  10. ‘the 36-year-old economist rehearses all the old tales about how hopeless New Zealand was before the Rogernomics revolution.’

    What would a 36-yrear-old economist know about ANYTHING?

    Certainly, he would know nothing about real economics or HOW THE WORLD ACTUALLY WORKS, since the foundations of modern economics are fraud, assigning positive attributes to negative factors etc.

    I all goes back to Simon Kuznets


    and the adoption of GDP, and the subsequent failure to abandon GDP when it was blatantly obvious that GDP was (and still is, of course) erroneous.

  11. Good post.

    Pearls of wisdom from Shamubeel include shares were a better investment than housing (he is ex Goldman Sacs and involved in writing reports for the right wing ‘productivity council’). Yep, I did have a few friends who believed him, never bought a house when they were able to do so and are now fucked in terms of trying to get one now.

    Another pearl of wisdom was that rising immigration had nothing to do with the housing crisis. It is all about land scarcity apparently, (straight from right wing US discourse ‘The Heritage foundation’ aka right wing fascist lobby group ) which after populating that viewpoint, then leads to blaming the environment.

    Soon we are told that it’s housing or the environment. Bill English is now on 2.0 of the US based strategy to destroy environmental regulation in this country and social law by now blaming the environment for the housing crisis.

    The Natz and left wingers whether real or just a front, seem to be trying to get everyone frothing at the mouth about forcing through RMA and zoning changes so that only economic factors are considered, deregulating construction and getting rid of any oversight on construction.

    The small grain is that due to the unitary plan and SHA’s being put through first and not helping any housing crisis – some of the smarter people are now questioning the scam.

    The government deregulated building in the late 1980’s early 1990’s that’s when the National party got all those leaky buildings erected that many of us are still paying for.

    It’s all to help the ‘poor’ of course. We know Bill English and John Key can’t sleep at night worrying about how to help them. sarc.

    • “Pearls of wisdom from Shamubeel include shares were a better investment than housing (he is ex Goldman Sacs and involved in writing reports for the right wing ‘productivity council’). Yep, I did have a few friends who believed him, never bought a house when they were able to do so and are now fucked in terms of trying to get one now.”

      When did he say that? I know he said it in 2015 – and he’s probably right. If he said it 15 years ago, then he was wrong. When are you referring to?

      “Another pearl of wisdom was that rising immigration had nothing to do with the housing crisis.”

      He’s right again. The problem is speculative investment. It’s not the result of people moving to NZ.

      Where Shamubeel is wrong is that he does not consider state housing policies…but to be fair he claims that’s outside of his focus in his book Generation Rent

      • Further Shambeel will never say “this is the cause,” instead he says words to the effect of a housing correction being all stored up, what pricks a housing bubble could be one of millions behaving a little different because millions own a mortagae in New Zealand.

        Simply put, Owning a mortgage means you work towards somebody elses schedule, deviate even a little bit and you will relies very quickly that your house isn’t your house untill you go through the routines lenders stipulate which is no less than double the valuation of your property. Instantly valuations double and thats with out addressing any of your concerns which amplify aaa rated thesis about lobotomised monkeys finding bananas

      • With respect, that is total garbage. Are you saying that if the 50% of Aucklanders born overseas “vanished” tomorrow, there would not be a surplus of housing? Please

        • Sure, if we kicked them out tomorrow then that would free up housing. But that would be like Trump on steroids. We simply can’t revoke citizenship and residency status, and you know it. Suggesting that is kinda neo-Nazi and something Kyle Chapman would say. It’s not a solution we should entertain.

          If we never let those immigrants in over the past 30 years, then we’d still have a housing shortage because our housing policies and economic ideology are the problem. The 50% of Aucklanders who were born overseas have contributed to our economy and paid a shit-load of taxes. If we never let them come in, but still had neoliberal policies shaping our housing, then we’d still have a housing shortage. The market won’t have delivered us housing over the last 30 years regardless of immigration levels.

          Now Wellington and Dunedin are having housing squeezes – the crisis is spreading there. And it’s not because of immigrants, it’s because of our social and economic policies.

  12. I could not agree with you more Chris. The washing of the past is working well on the younger neolibs in New Zealand today.

    I was 12 and interested in politics when Labour swept into power. We were taught by our economics teachers that the free market economy was much better at the same time Labour had begun destroying our rail network, our post office and Government and regionally owned banks.

    This year we are fortunate that New Zealand First will be the strongest has ever been and that will present a chance to change the system away from pure neo-liberal ideals which have let us down and collapsed most of provincial New Zealand.

    No other party except New Zealand First has been prepared to say the neoliberal experiment has left our country in a worse position 33 years after the experiment started.

  13. I was 15 when the Muldoon government fell and i remember the night Rob Muldoon appeared drunk on televison trying to explain why he was unable to command authority in his government and could not continue to govern unless he was re elected with a workable majority in the parliament as the 1981 election had given him a tiny one seat majority and he no longer had a total dictatorship that he had enjoyed since 1975.

    Muldoon had bought the country to bankruptcy trying to maintain the economic order in place for fifty years and borrowed heavily to keep kiwis in the manner they had come to expect and the privileges that we took for granted while we remained oblivious to the gathering storm that would destroy everything including our special kiwi way of life and Muldoons penchant for almost one man one rule government.

    The irony is that has changes been made gradually, debated, and not forced through under crisis management (there is no other alternative) and the rights of people in the economy and the safeguards of nationalism where our assets are concerned were recognised as untouchable in law we may have held on to our proud egalitarian traditions with changes and been more in control of our destiny.

    The fourth Labour government or more to the point the first Douglas government never campaigned on the drastic measures and the move to the neo lib economy in the 1984 campaign , that came after they were safely in office and we were regaled with terrifying stories every night about how bad it really all was and that the free market and selling everything that moved including the population was the only way to a better future.

    All current and future generations should be educated and made aware of what can happen in a country like New Zealand when change is forced without the peoples consent and the cost that New Zealanders are still paying the price for thirty three years later and what has been lost since.

    Maybe then people like Shambeel will be a little more circumspect in their opinions.

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